Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Pompeys Pillar is a massive sandstone outcrop that rises 150 feet from a two-acre base on the banks of the Yellowstone River. Long before the first Euro-American walked the banks of the Yellowstone River the Crow Indians called the monolith "Mountain Lion's Lodge" or "Where the Moluntain Lion Lies". An Indian legend says the rock that became known as Pompeys Pillar fell from the bluff on the opposite side of the river and rolled to its present location.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the immediate area surrounding the pillar was used as a camping spot by Native Americans for at least 5,000 years. The sandstone outcropping was an obvious landmark, a place where the entire village could ford the Yellowstone River.

The first Euro-American explorer o describe Pompeys Pillar was Francois-Antoine Larocque, a French fur trader with the North West Company. Larocque and a party of Crow Indians visited Crow country during the later summer of 1805. On September 15, on the return leg of his journey down the Yellowstone River, Larocque noted in his journal that he had come to "a Whitish perpendicular Rock on which is painted with Red earth a battle between three persons on horseback and 3 on foot."
On July 25, 1806, Captain William Clark and eight members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (also known as the Corps of Discovery) stopped at the landmark. Clark climbed to the top and recorded in his journal his view of a landscape of grassy plains, snow-capped mountains, and cliffs abutting the wandering river.

Before continuing downriver, Clark carved his name and the date on the northeast face of the pillar. He would later refer to the outcropping as Pompy's Tower, named for little Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, son of expedition members Toussaint Charbonneau and his Shoshone wife, Sacagawea. Clark had grown very fond of the infant and sometimes referred to him as "My boy Pomp." Pomp means "little chief" in the Shoshoni language.

Dugout canoes were used by Clark and his party as they continued down the river because the Indians had stolen all of their horses.

Several U. S. military expeditions passed within the shadow of the pillar as the Indian conflicts blossomed into full-scale warfare. One of the morenotable incidents occurred in August of 1873, when the 7th Calvary, commanded by Colonel David S. Stanley, accompanied surveyors for the Northern Pacific Railroad to the middle Yellowstone valley. Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer was also present. The military detachment camped a short disance northwest of Pompeys Pillar on the north bank of the river. While some men washed their clothes, a number of others bathed in the river. Suddenly, a small party of Sioux warriors appeared on the opposite bank and fired a volley into the naked swimmers, causing a frantic scramble for cover. The soldiers weren't injurd and the warriors soon withdrew. Although the encounter was brief, it may have been a little bit humorou to all but those in the direct line of fire.


It was so fun to have Paul visit us for a few days and we just had to introduce him to our great friends Judy and Gary. So what better place to get together than for dinner at the Rib and Chop House.


Located along the northeastern edge of Yellowstone National Park, the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway offers spectacular views and a unique history. Chief Joseph Scenic Highway is in Wyoming and follows the route taken by Chief Joseph as he led the Nez Perce Indians out of Yelllowstone National Park and into Montana in 1877 during their attempt to flee the U. S. Calvalry and escape into Canada. The 47 mile scenic highway winds through Shoshone Forest.
I found the history of Chief Joseph and his people fascinating so I wanted to share some of it with you.
Born Hinmuuttu-yalatlat (Nez Perce for "Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain") in Oregon, he was known as Young Joseph during his youth because his father had the same name.
While initially hospitable to the region's newcomers, Joseph the Elder grew wary when settlers wanted more Indian lands. Tensions grew as the settlers appropriated traditional Indian lands for farming and grazing livestock.
In 1855 Joseph the Elder and the other Nez Perce chiefs signed a treaty with the United States establishing a Nez Perce reservation encompassing 7.7 million acres in present-day Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. An influx of new settlers caused by a gold rush led the government to call a second council in 1863. Government commissioners asked the Nez Perce to accept a new, much smaller reservation of 780,000 acres centered around the village of Lapwai in Idaho. In exchange, they were promised financial rewards and schools and a hospital for the reservation. Head Chief Lawyer and one of his allied chiefs signed the treaty on behalf of the Nez Perce Nation, but Joseph the Elder and several other chiefs were opposed to selling their lands, and did not sign. Their refusal to sign caused a rift between the "non-treaty" and "treaty" bands of Nez Perce. The "treaty" Nez Perce moved within the new Idaho reservation's boundaries, while the "non-treaty" Nez Perce remained on their lands. Joseph the Elder demarcated his land with a series of poles, proclaiming, "Inside this boundary all our people were born. It circles the graves of our fathers, and we will never give up these graves to any man." Joseph the Younger succeeded his father as chief in 1871. Before his death, the latter counseled his son:
My son, my body is returning to my mother earth, and my spirit is going very soon to see the Great Spirit Chief. When I am gone, think of your country. You are the chief of these people. They look to you to guide them. Always remember that your father never sold his country. You must stop your ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home. A few years more and white men will be all around you. They have their eyes on this land. My son, never forget my dying words. This country holds your father's body. Never sell the bones of your father and your mother.

Chief Joseph commented "I clasped my father's hand and promised to do as he asked. A man who would not defend his father's grave is worse than a wild animal."
The non-treaty Nez Perce suffered many injustices at the hands of settlers and prospectors, but out of fear of reprisal from the militarily, Joseph never allowed any violence against them, instead making many concessions to them in hopes of securing peace.
In 1873, Chief Joseph negotiated with the federal government to ensure his people could stay on their land in the Wallowa Valley. But in 1877, the government reversed its policy, and Army General Oliver Howard threatened to attack if the Wallowa band did not relocate to the Idaho Reservation with the other Nez Perce. Chief Joseph reluctantly agreed.
Before the outbreak of hostilities, General Howard held a council to try to convince Joseph and his people to relocate. Joseph finished his address to the General, which focused on human equality, by expressing his "[disbelief that] the Great Spirit Chief gave one kind of men the right to tell another kind of men what they must do."
The day following the council, Joseph, White Bird, and Chief Looking Glass all accompanied General Howard to look at different areas. Unable to find any suitable uninhabited land on the reservation, Howard informed Joseph that his people had thirty days to collect their livestock and move to the reservation. Joseph pleaded for more time, but Howard told him that he would consider their presence in the Wallowa Valley beyond the thirty-day mark an act of war.
Returning home, Joseph called a council among his people. At the council, he spoke on behalf of peace, preferring to abandon his father's grave over war. Too-hul-hul-sote, insulted by his incarceration, advocated war.
The Wallowa band began making preparations for the long journey, meeting first with other bands at Rocky Canyon. At this council too, many leaders urged war, while Joseph argued in favor of peace.
While the council was underway, a young man whose father had been killed rode up and announced that he and several other young men had already killed four white men, an act sure to initiate war.
Still hoping to avoid further bloodshed, Joseph and other Nez Perce chiefs began leading his people north toward Canada.
With 2,000 U.S. soldiers in pursuit, Joseph and other Nez Perce chiefs led 800 Nez Perce toward freedom at the Canadian border. For over three months, the Nez Perce outmaneuvered and battled their pursuers traveling 1,700 miles. General Howard, leading the opposing cavalry, was impressed with the skill with which the Nez Perce fought, using advance and rear guards, skirmish lines, and field fortifications. Finally, after a devastating five-day battle during freezing weather conditions with no food or blankets, Chief Joseph formally surrendered to General Nelson Miles on October 5, 1977 in the Montana Territory less than 40 miles south of Canada in a place close to present-day Chinook. The battle is remembered in popular history by the words attributed to Chief Joseph at the formal surrender:
"Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Too-hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are—perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."

By the time Joseph surrendered more than 200 of his followers had died. His plight, however, did not end. Although he had negotiated a safe return home for his people, they were instead taken to eastern Kansas and then to a reservation in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) where many of them died of epidemic diseases.
In 1879 Chief Joseph went to Washington DC to meet with President Rutherford Hayes and plead the case of his people. Finally, in 1885, Chief Joseph and his followers were allowed to return to the Pacific Northwest, although many, including Chief Joseph, were taken to the Colville Indian Reservation far from both the rest of their people in Idaho and their homeland in the Wallowa Valley.
In his last years Joseph spoke eloquently against the injustice of United States policy toward his people and held out the hope that America's promise of freedom and equality might one day be fulfilled for Native Americans as well. An indomitable voice of conscience for the West, he died in September 1904, still in exile from his homeland, according to his doctor "of a broken heart."


Until 1882, the town and the land around it were within the Crow Reservation. Following numerous skirmishes between the Crow and gold miners the reservation boundry was moved east. Gold was found in the early 1870's. The area became known as the New World Mining District. The town was known as Shoo-fly until 1880 when it became known as Cooke City, MT named after a mining investor named Jay Cooke, Jr. Cooke promised to use his considerable influence to bring the railroad through the top of Yellowstone Park from Gardiner. This single move would have made the mining much more profitable in the Cooke area. Congress soon put an end to the possibility and unfortunately, Cooke ran into financial difficulty and lost his bonded mining claims. The road to Cooke City is difficult during the winter months and snowmobiles are almost a necessity. Cooke City may be hard to get to but well worth the visit.
We had a great hamburger and real fries at the Bistro Cafe. Notice the coat I have on - and remember it's August.


Heralded as one of the most scenic drives in the United States the route features breathtaking views of the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains, and open high alpine plateaus dotted with countless glacial lakes, forested valleys, waterfalls and wildlife. Since its completion in 1936, the highway has provided millions of visitors a rare opportunity to see the transition from a lush forest ecosystem to alpine tundra in the space of just a few miles.
The Beartooth All-American Road passes through The Beartooth Corridor. It is one of the highest and most rugged areas in the lower 48 states, with 20 peaks reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation. In the surrounding mountains, glaciers are found on the north flank of nearly every mountain peak over 11,500 feet high. The Road itself is the highest elevation highway in Wyoming (10,947 feet) and Montana (10,350 feet), and is the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies.

Monday, August 10, 2009


One of the really great things about having people come visit is that you get to play tourist and see those things that you've lived near for many years but never took the time to go see them. So that's what we did with Paul. We headed out in The Big Truck for the battlefield where Custer met his end. Time for a history lesson: The Little Bighorn Battle was one of the last armed efforts of the Northern Plain Indians to preserve their ancestral way of life. Here in this valley of the little Bighorn River on two hot June days in 1876, more than 260 soldiers and attached personnel of the U.S. Army met defeat and death at the hands of several thousand Lakota and Cheyenne Warriors.

The conflict with the Indians had been on-going for many years. It's peak was reached in the decade following the Civil War when settlers wanted to move west. These settlers had no understanding of the Indian way of life and showed no regard for the sanctity of their hunting grounds or the terms of the treaties that were enforce. So, of course, the Indians fought back.

In 1868, believing it "cheaper to feed than to fight the Indians", representatives of the U. S. government signed a treaty at Fort Laramie, WY with the Lakota, Cheyenne and other Great Plains tribes giving them a large area in eastern Wyoming as a permanent Indiant reservation. The government promised to protect the Indians "against the commission of all depredations by people of the United States."

However in 1874 gold was discovered in the Black Hills, which was the heart of the Indian reservation. The army tried to keep out the hoards of gold seekers but was unable to do so. The Lakota and Cheyenne, in defiance, left the reservation and resumed their raids. In December 1875, the commissioner of Indian Affairs ordered the tribes to return before January 31, 1876 or be treated as hotiles "by the military force." When the Indians did not comply, the army was called in to enforce the order.

This set up the Campaign of 1876 which ended at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Custer was serving under General Alfred H. Terry who's goal was to round up the Indians concentrated in southeastern Montana under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. Terry ordered Custer and the 7th Calvary up the Rosebud River to approach the Little Bighorn from the South. Terry and Colonel Gibbon would go back up the Yellowstone and Bighorn rivers to approach from the north. The 7th Calvary, (about 600 men) located the Indian camp at dawn on June 25.
Custer underestimated the size and fighting power of the Lakota and Cheyenne and divided his regiment into three battalions. He assigned three companies each to Major eno and Captain Benteen. Benteen was ordered to scout the bluffs to the south, while Custer and Reno headed north toward the lower end of the encampment. Reno was ordered to cross the river and attack the upper end of the camp.
A large force of Lakota warriors intercepted Reno who attempted to make a stand, but there wre just too many Indians. He was forced to retreat in disorder to the river and took up a defensive position on the bluffs. Here he was joined by Benteen.
Heavy gunfire was heard to the north wich indicated that Custer too had come under attacked. So Reno and Benteen put their troops in motion northward. When they arrived on a high hill the battlefield was visible but nothing could be seen of Custer and his men. Reno and Benteen and their men were attacked on this hill and retreated to the bluffs overlooking the Little Bighorn. They were able to defend this position for almost two days until the Indians withdrew upon learning of the approach of the army under Terry and Gibbon.
Custer's actual movements after separating from Reno have never been determined but vivid accounts of the battle by Indians who participated in it tell how his command was surrounded and destroyed in fierce fighting.
The Army lost 263 men with 52 wounded. The Indians lost less than 100.Today several Indian ponies roam this land.